It was a milestone that snuck up on John Lackey, but still an impressive one. The Cubs starter fanned Jayson Werth in the fourth inning for his 2,000th career strikeout. Lackey struck out 11 batters to pass former White Sox great Billy Pierce (1,999) and Andy Benes (2,000) and move into 74th place on the all-time strikeout list with 2,005.
“Honestly, I didn’t know I was that close,” said Lackey. “I had a runner on first and I was trying to get out of an inning. I guess [it means] I’m old and I’ve been around for a while, done a few things.”
Lackey is 4-1 with a 4.02 ERA this season, outpitched former Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (3-2, 4.60), who allowed four home runs and seven earned runs in five innings. Lackey allowed a second-inning home run to Anthony Rendon. Daniel Murphy had three hits off him. But Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman were a combined 0-for-6.
The key to handling the Nationals’ lineup?
“Goin’ after ‘em,” the big Texan said. “I’m not someone who backs down. We were going to play a little country hard ball every now and than. You’re going to get me or I’m going to get you.”
And he’s keeping the Cubs’ hot start in perspective. Asked how the Cubs compare to other teams he’s played on, including the 2002 World Series champion Angels, Lackey didn’t bite.
“It’s a little early to get too crazy,” he said. “Let’s play a little baseball.”
Tommy LaStella had seven total bases Friday — a two-run homer off Scherzer that tied the game 2-2 in the second inning and a triple in the fifth inning. He’s hitting .356 (16-for-45).
“I didn’t realize how good of a hitter, how good of a player [he is] — the kind of attitude he brings to the field every day,” Ben Zobrist said. “It really goes unheralded and he’s doing a great job of steeping in and getting starts here and there and as of late he’s been really crushing the ball.”
Stay fair, baby!
Anthony Rizzo had to wait out a replay review on his home run that hit the flag atop the right-field foul pole. Rizzo said he knew it was fair.
“Right off the bat. You just never know,” Rizzo said. “It felt good. I saw it fair. It’s a tough one to overturn. I’m grateful the umpire called it [fair].”
Zobrist had a perfect view from the on-deck circle.
“It was kind of perfect timing for the flag to be in front of the pole,” he said. “Because it hit right in the middle of the flag, you couldn’t tell if it was going to hit the pole or not.”
Montero “coming along”
Catcher Miguel Montero, eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list (back) on Tuesday, said he did not think he would need a minor-league rehab assignment, but “it’s not up to me.”
Montero was encouraged by a batting practice stint on Thursday.
“It’s coming along,” he said. “I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to take my time with it, and we’ll see. I felt really good in the cage, actually. I feel a lot better. I’m still thinking about it a little bit when you do things. But for the most part, I don’t feel anything. I feel pretty good.”
The other Wrigley Field
The Cubs are 9-3 (.750) at Wrigley Field this season, but are 13-3 (.813) on the road. Friday’s game was the first with summer-like conditions, a far cry from the 40-something nights that have dominated the early home schedule.
“It’s two different ballparks. It’s incredible how we play in two different ballparks [at home],” manager Joe Maddon said. “I think of the Texas League immediately. When you play Midland and El Paso, it’s one way to play baseball. Then you go to San Antonio, Beaumont, Shreveport, Little Rock and Tulsa, it’s an entirely different game.
“It’s incredible how different the game is. We’ll take it today, obviously. Both teams have power. We got more [four home runs to one for the Nationals] and that’s it.”
David Ross caught John Lackey for the first time since May 9, 2013 with the Red Sox and received rave reviews from the winning pitcher.
“Ross-ey was unbelievable. We had a great game plan,” said Lackey, who allowed six hits and two runs in seven innings, with one walk and 11 strikeouts. “I haven’t worked with him in a long time. That was a lot of fun.”
The Cub killer
Daniel Murphy’s 0-for-4 in the series opener was only a brief respite for the Cub-killer. Aided by a ball that hit first base, Murphy was 4-for-4 on Friday. He’s hitting .351 against the Cubs since 2011, including .440 (22-for-50) the past two seasons.